Maxxis MTB Tire Casings Explained (2023 Update)
When you think of mountain bike tires, Maxxis comes to mind as one of the most widely used tire brands. Their tires are not only among the highest-quality mountain bike tires available but also cover every variation imaginable. Even when looking at Maxxis tire casings and sidewalls, there is a variety to select from. The use of abbreviations like EXO, DD, DH and TPI doesn’t make it any easier, so here are the basics.
Maxxis MTB tires come in the four main casings 60 TPI, 120 TPI, Downhill (DH) and DoubleDown (DD). The four tire armor options are Silkworm, Silkshield, EXO and EXO+ from the least to most protective. Not all tires are available in all casings since they have specific uses they are designed for.
Maxxis’ casing options are designed for a range of riding applications with varying characteristics for grip, stiffness, protection and damping. So, depending on the type of riding you do, one casing is more favorable than another. Luckily, the most common ones are 60 and 120 TPI, with DH and DD only available for tough gravity tires.
I wrote a similar article for the other big tire brand, explaining Schwalbe’s MTB tire casings. But first things first. Let’s cover the basics before we can understand what Maxxis’ DD, EXO, EXO, Silkshield and all those TPI numbers actually are.
If you want to know which Maxxis tire is best for you, here’s my full guide for Maxxis MTB Tires.
If you are interested in checking out the full range of Maxxis MTB tires, you can find pretty much all variations in their amazon store or over at Jenson.
What is a bike tire casing?
A casing gives stability and shape to the tire. It’s the main body, made of nylon cloth layers, that connects to the rim. Other parts of the tire like beads, the tread pattern and sometimes flat protection are built into or sit on the casing.
To illustrate this, here’s a graphic depicting each individual part of a bike tire, with the casing connecting them all. Notice the layers of fabric in the casing’s construction.
So, the casing is fundamental to many characteristics like tire size (here’s a deep-dive into everything to know about MTB tire sizes), protection, damping and traction – even tho it’s not directly touching the ground. That would be the tread pattern, which is a whole other topic (which you can read about here).
And that’s why it doesn’t have anything to do with tire compounds, despite some misconceptions. Compounds and casings still need to work together, so Maxxis produce their tires in combinations that make sense for each individual use case. For more on Maxxis 2C and 3C compounds, check out this article I wrote.
TPI stands for threads per square inch.
The TPI number on a tire tells you how many nylon threads are in one square inch of the tire casing’s cloth. More but smaller threads make the tire more compliant. So, 120 TPI offers more traction, while thicker threads of a 60 TPI tire have more protection and stability under braking and cornering.
More on that topic later. Here’s the need to know:
“Thin rubber feels great, but offers minimal protection.”Life wisdom
That’s where casing inserts come into play. They sit in the sidewalls in between plys of nylon cloth and can even go all around the casing to go beneath the tread. More protection is heavier and less compliant. So again, Maxxis provides options from Silkshield, EXO to EXO+.
Recently Maxxis streamlined their casing and protection combinations by making all EXO+ tires the tougher 60 TPI variant. Regular EXO is still available on 120 TPI tires.
By the way, this is not to be confused with tire inserts, the foam tubes trapped between the rim and tire on tubeless tires. That type of protection is used to prevent pinch flats and rim damage.
A quick word on tire beads
There are wire and folding beads but that’s usually not what you can select for. Beads are part of the casing construction. Higher-end tires have kevlar beads, that can fold – hence the term folding tires. Non-folding steel bead tires are not necessarily worse, only heavier and harder to mount on the wheel.
Generally, only heavy-duty or cheaper tires come with those. Maxxis has both beads on offer, while only DD and DH casings can have wire beads.
That’s all we need to know for now. For a complete deep dive, I wrote an entire article all about MTB tire casings.
Maxxis 60 TPI & 120 TPI (Single Ply)
The biggest difference within a casing is the thread per inch count, or TPI. On mountain bike tires 60 and 120 TPI are the most common. All this tells you is the size of the individual nylon threads that make up a ply of tire casing. The more there are in an inch, the thinner they have to be. The bigger the threads, the tougher they are on the other hand.
Or in other words: Lower TPI bike tires are more puncture resistant but heavier and stiffer. And higher TPI tires are more compliant but also more prone to punctures and tire slashes. Both can have additional puncture protection inserted between the threads by manufacturers.
Is 60 TPI or 120 TPI better?
As you can imagine, 120 TPI casings are more difficult to produce and usually a bit more expensive for the better compliance they provide.
A softer 120 TPI tire is only beneficial on Cross Country and Trail bikes. Mountain bikes that take harder impacts like Downhill, Freeride, Enduro and Dirt Jump bikes (for Slopestyle or Pumptrack) are often better off with a stiffer, durable 60 TPI.
Those lower TPI casings are generally stiffer and more stable, which is crucial to have the tires not fold over when cornering hard. The same is true for big impacts and rough, sharp terrain. A softer, high TPI tire is going to get to its limits quickly there.
But there’s more to this TPI story. Namely, how many plys of cloth are laid on top of each other. We’re talking about single ply and dual ply. As you would expect, singly ply is more compliant but less stiff than using double the layers in a dual ply.
This is why Maxxis produces stronger dual layer casings for a few select gravity tires.
Maxxis Double Down & Downhill Casings (Dual Ply)
Double Down (DD) and Downhill (DH) casing variants are Maxxis’ dual-ply range. For DD a 120 TPI and for DH a 60 TPI ply of cloth is folded over. They’re stiffer, more durable and more flat-resistant by nature. DD is used on Enduro and DH for Downhill and Freeride.
This kind of toughness is only useful on aggressive downhill and freeride bikes. Thus, you’ll only find tires in this spectrum of Maxxis’ range to be available in DD and DH casings.
While those technically have 240 and 120 TPI, it would be misleading to use TPI numbers to describe dual plys. Those kinds of tires have no characteristics you would expect from high TPI tires. Some other manufacturers actually do that, Maxxis is not.
You’ll see now why all this TPI talk makes sense now when we talk about tire armor.
Maxxis Puncture Protection (EXO, EXO+, DD & DH)
You might have come across the EXO protection variants from Maxxis. It’s their trick to combine the benefits of single-ply and dual-ply into one casing: light weight with better protection. They do this by putting extra inserts in between the weavings of the tire casing only where they’re needed: in the sidewalls.
For Maxxis MTB tires, there are four main tire armor options available.
- EXO is a light sidewall insert.
- EXO+ is a 60 TPI casing with EXO sidewalls.
- DD is a dual-ply 120 TPI casing with strong Butyl sidewall inserts.
- DH is a dual-ply 60 TPI casing with strong Butyl sidewall inserts.
As you can see, casing construction and puncture protection are closely interwoven (pun intended). There is also ZK and Silkworm, which are uncommon in MTB tires, so we’ll leave those out and talk about EXO.
What is EXO sidewall protection?
An extra layer of dense fabric as sidewall protection is what Maxxis calls their EXO puncture protection. It reduces pinch flats and tire slashes without reducing compliance of high TPI tires by being woven into the casing itself. It’s mostly used on lighter and softer Cross Country and Trail tires.
What is the difference between Maxxis EXO and EXO+?
While EXO is the sidewall insert for increased protection against cuts, Maxxis EXO+ has that and adds a Butyl reinforcement at the beads against pinch flats. EXO+ is also now only available on 60 TPI tires, which are more puncture resistant by design, making the area beneath the tread also more protected.
In the past, EXO+ was with another stronger layer over the entire casing, bead to bead. Maxxis has recently updated their EXO+ design, which made tire selection easier for us riders. The new EXO+ version is identifiable by the same EXO+ label but no TPI number listed on the tire’s sidewall.
Now we have to consider this as well when reading and understanding bike tires. But it’s a welcome change and makes tire choice a tad bit easier for us riders. Speaking of which …
How to pick the best Maxxis tire casing
In terms of casings, Maxxis makes tire choice as easy as it can be. This means you can focus on selecting the best combination of Maxxis’ rubber compounds and tread patterns and to fit the riding you’re doing. This is because they make the choice for you.
Maxxis tires are only available in the respective casing options, that actually make sense. So, Cross Country and Trail tires always have lighter, softer casings. And gravity tires for Downhill and Enduro come in stiffer, heavier casings.
One exception to this are the flagship allrounder tires like the Minion variants and some others. Those come in all imaginable combinations of treads, casings, compounds, tire sizes, and beads.
This is where you need to know what all those numbers and abbreviations mean and also what of those you need.
To give an overview, I put all of Maxxis’ current MTB tires into one single table for you to help navigate based on the type of riding you do. Besides tire names and MTB discipline, it also lists casings, puncture protection and rubber compounds.
Here are all current Maxxis mountain bike tires sorted by riding discipline:
|Mountain Bike Disciplines||Maxxis Tire||Rubber Compounds||Tire Casings||Flat Protection||Trail Recommendations|
|Dirtjump, Pumptrack, Slopestyle||Pace||1C, 2C||60 TPI||SilkShield, EXO||Smooth, Hard|
|Downhill||Wetscream||3C MaxxGrip, Super Tacky||DH||-||Mud|
|Enduro, Downhill||Assegai||2C, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip||60 TPI, DD, DH||EXO, EXO+||Allrounder (FrontTire)|
|Fatbike||Minion FBF||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Allrounder (FrontTire)|
|Fatbike||Minion FBR||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Allrounder (Rear Tire)|
|Kids, XC, Trail||Snyper||2C Dual Compound||-||SilkShield||Allrounder|
|Trail, Enduro||Aggressor||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, DD||EXO||Dry, Hard (Rear Tire)|
|Trail, Enduro||Minion SS||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, DD||Silkworm, EXO||Dry, Hard (Rear Tire)|
|Trail, Enduro, Downhill||Dissector||2C, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip||60 TPI, DD, DH||EXO, EXO+||Dry, Hard, Loose|
|Trail, Enduro, Downhill||High Roller II||1C, 2C, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip, Super Tacky||60 TPI, DD, DH||EXO||Dry, Hard, Loose|
|Trail, Enduro, Downhill||Minion DHF||1C, 2C, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip, Super Tacky||60 TPI, 120 TPI, DD, DH||EXO, EXO+||Allrounder (FrontTire)|
|Trail, Enduro, Downhill||Minion DHR II||1C, 2C, 3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip, Super Tacky||60 TPI, 120 TPI, DD, DH||EXO, EXO+||Allrounder (Rear Tire)|
|Trail, Enduro, Downhill||Shorty||3C MaxxTerra, 3C MaxxGrip||DD (Double Down), DH||EXO||Mud, Loose Dirt|
|XC Race||Aspen||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Allrounder|
|XC Race||Crossmark II||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI||EXO||Dry, Hard|
|XC Race||Ikon||2C, 3C MaxxSpeed, 3C MaxxTerra||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Allrounder|
|XC Race||Rekon Race||2C Dual Compound||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Dry, Hard (Rear Tire)|
|XC, Trail||Ardent||1C, 2C||60 TPI||EXO||Dry, Hard|
|XC, Trail||Ardent Race||2C, 3C MaxxSpeed||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO||Allrounder|
|XC, Trail||Forekaster||2C, 3C MaxxTerra||60 TPI||EXO||Allrounder|
|XC, Trail||Rekon||2C, 3C MaxxSpeed, 3C MaxxTerra||60 TPI, 120 TPI||EXO, EXO+||Dry, Hard, Loose|
Find out the actual tires suitable for your riding discipline first before getting into the details like available casings. Those will be dependent on the type of riding.
How to pick the ideal tire for you
There is no do-it-all perfect tire for anyone, and neither is there a compound to do it all. Weight and comfort of softer casings are directly opposed to the durability and stiffness of harder ones. In any case, it’s best to start with the choice of tire tread, then on to compounds and then casings.
- Combine front and rear tires optimally.
- Front tires require more compliance and have to endure fewer impact forces.
- Rear tires bear most of the weight and take huge impacts.
- Select for the most important characteristic first.
- Weight, Grip, Durability
- Choose the appropriate casing and puncture protection from the limited options available at this point.
- EXO: Light-duty trail and Cross Country riding
- EXO+: All-around trail riding
- DoubleDown (DD): Enduro, DH, and e-bikes
- Downhill (DH): Downhill racing and long-travel e-bikes
The more gravity is in your favor while riding, the stiffer the casing should be.